The Southern was said to the “the apotheosis of the lowbrow in manners. His speech is wrecked on a false ideal of freedom and ease; his traditions are huddled up under aggression and haste; his manners are sacrificed to a false democracy.” It was also said that it takes three generations to make a gentleman, and that he is trained in the heart as a scholar is trained in the mind. Ellen Glasgow wrote in her “Virginia” in 1913 regarding the vanishing Southern lady that “the less a Southern girl knew about life, the better prepared she was to deal with it.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man
“As the shifting social scene swims before my eyes, I realize that two of the most picturesque figures of the past have almost disappeared, the Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man. There are a few survivals of the Southern Lady, but their voices are growing fainter.
The old-time Southern Lady with purring and ceremonious manners was the queen of what has been called the moonshine and magnolia era. The memory of her is like the faint perfume of old roses, a little sweet, a little melancholy, a little suggestive of decay. Her mind ran in deep groves and her manners were brocaded. The worst of it was that she had many spurious imitators who lacked her charm.
The Grand Old Man type has disappeared from village life in the South. He was an institution. He had form, background, and color. He was often a lawyer and politician, in frock coat and high hat. He was sometimes an old-line Whig of the Henry Clay school. An old-line Whig has been described by somebody as a man who wore a ruffled shirt and drank a lot of whiskey. The Grand Old Man’s more remote ancestors fought the Indians and the British; he and his more immediate relatives fought the Yankees.
He will tell over and over the story of his grandfather who was stood up by a group of Tories after King’s Mountain and threatened with death unless he gave certain information; of how his grandfather looked down the gun barrels and told them to “shoot and be damned.”
The Grand Old Man most likely had an old uniform and a sword somewhere in the house, the uniform to be buried in and the sword to hang over the fireplace. If his grandchildren today were asked about the sword, they would probably display indifference and ignorance. To them Gettysburg is little more than a name – a name they have heard too often.
But the history of that sword, lying dormant for years in their brains, will perhaps come to life in their later years and whisper in their ears its story of courage and sacrifice.
The Grand Old Man was undoubtedly a social force in his day. He was ceremonious, courteous, deliberate, positive, and a trifle pompous. If he ever posed, he was not conscious of it. He always knew to a certainty what the government should have done and what it should do. His opinions always hardened his convictions. But this stalwart and picturesque figure has faded out. If there be any of his kind left, they are today little more than museum pieces.
(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, excerpt, pp. 271-272)